Eventide has long been a force in the studio FX business, and in the last decade have come out with legendary pedals like the TimeFactor, ModFactor, PitchFactor, and Space – four amazing units that became must haves for touring musicians and recording professionals all over the world. One of the biggest drawbacks for the average player was the cost, with each unit costing around $500 – that was until the Eventide H9 Max came along.
With the original H9, the H9 Core, Eventide provided a small number of the pedal algorithms into each unit with the option to purchase upgrades to include the remaing algorithms. However, with the H9 Max, users got pretty much everything they had to offer in one pedal – a genuine revolution.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we got hands on with this amazing studio quality pedal that has big names like Jack White, Jim Root, The Edge, Ed O’Brien, Cory Wong, and many more flocking to it. We wanted to see if it really lived up to the reputation, and whether it’s truly worth the price tag.
Sweetwater did provide us with an Eventide H9 Max for the purposes of this review, but as always, all thoughts and opinions relating to it are our own.
Who Is This For?
Ultimately, the Eventide H9 max is marketed towards the consumer market, particularly working musicians. Yes, it’s an expensive pedal compared to many multi FX units available, but when you remember that you’re getting genuine studio quality, the price makes much more sense.
In addition, it’s such a versatile unit that it really negates the need for a large pedalboard, so it probably doesn’t cost much, if any more than you’d likely spend on a group of stomp boxes that match its capabilities. Although, if you’re someone who likes to build a big signal chain with multiple FX types, you’ll still need to hang on to your other pedals (more on this later).
Usability / Connectivity
We found that the H9 Max was, at first, a little daunting. In the first instance, we tried to control everything using the rotary/ push button dial. While it’s possible to manipulate the controls in this way, we quickly learned that using the companion app was a much better (and faster) way to get the tones we wanted from the 52 algorithms and 100 factory installed presets.
The companion app is available as a desktop application, or a mobile app for both iOS and Android via the App Store and Google Play Store. It connects to the pedal via Bluetooth, and we found it to be a solid and reliable system. We encountered no bugginess or slow response, and the app itself worked very well.
On top of basic control, having Bluetooth connectivity also allows users to perform troubleshooting on any algorithms that aren’t playing ball using the Eventide Control App.
As far as usability was concerned, one other drawback was the fact that it didn’t allow us to stack algorithms like we would create a signal chain on a more traditional multi FX unit, like a Line 6 Helix. Although, with a little bit of research though, there’s a good chance you’ll find the sound you’re after within the unit already, as many of the FX are basically algorithms that are already stacked on top of one another.
Tones / Performance
One of the big draws to Eventide Pedals has always been the sound quality, and this really jumped out and slapped us in the face. Players who are used to using a board full of low to mid price units will no doubt be all too aware of the inevitable electrical interference and tone loss that comes with running through so many individual pedals, but with the H9 Max, we found no such background noise or loss of fidelity. Especially for those who are planning to record, or run a rig through a Kemper or Quad Cortex, the increased sound quality will feel more like an actual signal boost, which is quite incredible.
Because covering each and every one of the presets and algorithms would require about ¼ of the internet, we rounded up our absolute favorites to give you a flavor of what to expect from the H9 Max.
Our Three Favorite Presets
Black Hole Reverb
The first of our H9 Max highlights is the famous Black Hole Reverb. With this setting we got huge reverb, with some crazy harmonic tails. Despite the complexity of the tone, we found that it retained clarity, which is always an achievement with a busy reverb setting.
While at first glance you might dismiss an effect like this as being something of an experimental sound, it really does add a lot of ambience to a track, and it’s usable in just about any genre.
The Black Hole plugin retails at $200 as a standalone purchase, so having it included in the H9 Max does hit home the value of investing in this one unit.
The next preset we wanted to highlight was the Copeland Pitchfuzz. This setting combines three different pitch options plus delays, all funneled through an incredible fuzz effect. The initial preset, out of the box, sounds like the cascading intro to a doom metal album, but with some tweaking the preset can be used for just about any genre and application.
ONLY TAILS was one of our absolute favorite presets on this unit. It uses the Harmadillo algorithm, and from there it created some incredible tremolo trails that lingered on any notes we allowed to ring out. It’s a really unique effect, and definitely one we recommend you check out.
As mentioned, going through every setting on this pedal would fill an encyclopedia – fortunately, we found that the Eventide has produced a great guide to the algorithms that did a great job of explaining the settings and how to make adjustments, so it shouldn’t take too much to figure out what you like
One thing to note is to make sure you go beyond face value on each of the presets. On our first run through each of the settings, we found ourselves almost overwhelmed, and even found that some of the effects were a little over the top.
When we realized just how easy it was to make modifications, however, we came to the conclusion that Eventide has most likely intentionally exaggerated the presets to ensure that users can quickly figure out what each setting does.
Final Thoughts on the Eventide H9 Max
We’ve been keen to get our hands on an Eventide H9 Max for quite some time, and thankfully we weren’t disappointed. It offers incredible audio quality, far above and beyond anything else we’ve experienced in other pedals at this price point. We don’t throw the term studio quality around lightly, but in the case of this pedal, in this case it’s a label that was truly earned – it’s easy to see why it’s used by everyone from the likes of Jack White and The Edge all the way through to Mick Thompson and Jim Root of Slipknot, all of whom are who are well known for meticulously crafting incredible effects laden sounds.
We loved the app control too, both for its convenience, and for the fine level of control it gave us. It’s not the only pedal on the market with a companion app, but it’s quickly become one of our favorites.
While it doesn’t do FX stacking, and it isn’t a particularly cheap pedal, we did find that its performance still outweighed its price tag, making it great value, especially for players who will truly make use of its rich feature set.